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Are Your Employees Quiet Quitting?

By Jenny Barnes on Jan 17, 2023
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It’s possible that much of your workforce has “quietly quit” without you even knowing it. Quiet quitting is on the rise. A recent Gallup poll found that more than half of the U.S. workforce admits to quiet quitting. Gallup said in its report that it suspects the real number is even higher. 

What is Quiet Quitting? 

There’s no single definition of quiet quitting. While it doesn’t involve an employee physically leaving a job, it may mean that employees are simply setting boundaries so that work responsibilities no longer are all-consuming.

This kind of quiet quitting, which may allow people to achieve a more satisfying work/life balance, can be good for employees’ well-being. For that reason, some workplace and mental health experts encourage it. 

However, quiet quitting also can refer to the intentional act of doing only the basics needed to get by at work – essentially “phoning it in.” Although quiet quitters show up at work, they stick to their scheduled hours and basic responsibilities.

They don’t volunteer for more challenging projects or new initiatives. They aren’t psychologically or emotionally invested in their work, and they don’t go “above and beyond,” as committed, passionate employees do. 

This sort of quiet quitting isn’t a novel concept. It’s been around for years, known more commonly as employee disengagement. What is new, however, is the high percentage of workers who are consciously, purposefully disengaging, often because they’re burned out or stressed out at work. 

On the surface, this may not seem like a huge problem, considering that quiet quitters are completing their job duties. For most smaller companies, though, a workforce that is engaged and willing to go beyond the minimum is essential to their competitive advantage.

And, because research has shown that the more effort we put into an endeavor, the more we value that endeavor, engaged employees are more likely to be productive and satisfied. 

Employee Burnout 101

Quiet Quitting: How Did We Get Here? 

The societal upheaval brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic prompted many workers to reconsider their lives and their relationships with work. That thinking drove more than 54 million Americans to resign from their jobs between March 2021 and March 2022 as part of the Great Resignation.

Quiet quitting may be the Great Resignation’s next phase – one in which workers stay in their jobs but drop out of the “hustle culture,” defined as constantly working in pursuit of “climbing the corporate ladder” at the expense of work/life balance. 

The hashtag #QuietQuitting has tallied more than 17 million views on social media platform TikTok – and workforce studies suggest it’s more than just a social media phenomenon. 

How to Spot Quiet Quitting 

As a small or mid-sized business owner, it’s essential to recognize quiet quitting so you can address it before it infects your workplace further. Watch for these telltale signs: 

  • Low productivity

Employees are leaving projects undone at the end of the workday, have lost their drive to meet goals and lack the determination to do better. They seem disinterested in projects about which they were previously enthusiastic. These signs may be most noticeable with top-performing employees, who may have begun relying on co-workers to do most of the work. 

  • Separating from co-workers

Employees might pull back from work relationships or avoid collaborative projects that aren’t an obvious part of their job descriptions. They also may be unresponsive to any communication outside of business hours. 

  • Less positivity

Workers who once embraced new initiatives have begun to make negative or cynical comments about projects, leadership or the company overall.   

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The Effects of Quiet Quitting  

Quiet quitting causes a disruption in employee/employer relationships. If it’s prevalent, its impact will be felt throughout the workplace and may spill over into customer interactions. 

Co-workers, often the first to recognize when a fellow employee is quiet quitting, might experience a heavier workload when they step up to complete tasks or meet deadlines the disengaged employee is missing. Quiet quitting also may create an emotional impact on workers who see their colleagues disconnecting from work friendships. 

Customer service, experience and results may take a hit, as well, and there’s potential for quiet quitting to spread from just one employee to others – which is why it’s important to address quiet quitting before it gains a foothold in your organization. 

How Should Employers Respond to Quiet Quitting? 

Quiet quitting doesn’t have to wreak havoc on your workplace. Start by taking steps to prevent it from happening in the first place: 

  • Compensate Employees Competitively 

Employees who feel fairly compensated for their work are more likely to perform well. While employees shouldn’t be expected to work beyond the scopes of their jobs without pay, those who are engaged and satisfied with their compensation likely will be willing to go the extra mile to ensure projects are done right. This even includes occasionally working outside of business hours. Fair pay also reduces the potential for employees to go beyond quiet quitting and seek positions outside your company

RELATED: How to Respond When You Hear "I Want a Raise" >>

  • Value Employee Feedback 

Employees notice when a company expresses genuine care for them by making them feel seen and heard. Ask your employees’ opinions, both in conversations and in employee surveys. Listen to them in meetings, rather than doing all the talking. When you can, adapt the workplace environment in response to employees’ recommendations and, when you can’t, let your team know why certain suggestions can’t be implemented. Little changes make a big difference in developing a trusting relationship with your employees. 

  • Create a Great Culture 

Creating a positive work environment that enables your employees to thrive is the best way to ward off quiet quitting. If possible, show your employees that they are trusted and respected by giving them autonomy in the form of more control over their schedules and more freedom to make decisions. 

Encourage employees to collaborate whenever possible. Group projects are more fun and can be more productive. It’s harder for employees to isolate themselves if they work with others. Recognize employees and teams who are putting in extra effort or getting outstanding results. Have meaningful discussions with employees to make sure they understand how their work contributes to the company’s goals and purpose

Double-check that your company policies express the importance of everyone feeling safe and respected – and make sure those policies are being followed.  

Second, if you’re seeing signs of quiet quitting in your workplace, you can address it before it becomes a widespread problem. 

  • Honest (and Ongoing) Conversation 

As soon as you think an employee is quiet quitting, set up a one-on-one meeting to find out what’s motivating the change in behavior. Approach the conversation with an open mind. Unless you understand why the worker has chosen to disengage, you won’t be able to help correct the situation. Once you have this information, find out what the employee believes would motivate more engagement. Take steps to enact changes where you can based on the employee’s feedback. 

Establish an ongoing, two-way communication loop to keep the employee updated about steps the company is taking and to hear how the employee is doing. Gallup’s quiet quitting report recommends managers have one meaningful conversation per week with each team member. What qualifies as “meaningful” may differ by employee, but the key is that managers must be able to connect regularly with all team members in some way. Not all managers are born with these skills, but most can be taught to improve

  • Clarify Expectations 

Quiet quitting usually occurs because the company and the worker aren’t aligned on expectations. Use what you learn in the conversation with the quiet quitter to clarify job expectations; understand the employee’s career goals; explain growth opportunities and timelines for promotions and pay raises; and communicate the criteria required for the employee to achieve the desired career growth path. 

Be open to the possibility that the employee may legitimately be struggling with an unmanageable workload. Be willing to review the team member’s tasks and projects to either make sure the person isn’t being overworked or to collaboratively establish a more realistic workload. 

  • Encourage Your Team to Recharge 

Making sure your employees take time away from work for personal activities tells them you value them as people, not just as cogs producing for the company. Be a champion of your employees taking time to reboot. Encourage them to take breaks and vacations. Give them extra time off if they’ve been coming in early or staying late to manage a hot project. Make time for fun or de-stressing activities in your workplace, too. 

RELATED: Burnout Busters - 5 Ways to Get Reenergized >>  

How Axcet Can Help Your Company Avoid Employees Quiet Quitting 

Building a strong culture with open lines of communication between management and employees is the first line of defense against your most valuable asset quietly quitting.  

Often, however, smaller businesses don't know how to create a culture that engages employees. Axcet HR Solutions can help you build a great company culture that connects workers to your organization. We can also help you effectively address quiet quitting if it has already gotten a foothold in your workplace. Schedule a consultation with Axcet to learn more about how to prevent quiet quitting and help your employees thrive.

Axcet HR Solutions Employee Relations

Written by Jenny Barnes

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